Welcome to Music of Ice and Fire. I’m Maester Ludwig and I’m here to break the 4th wall and talk a bit about this project, how it came about and what to expect.
It all began a few years ago when a friend asked my opinion on a particular musical theme that served as the main theme to a TV show and all I could muster was a ‘meh’. It was catchy, but that was about it. The soundtrack that accompanied the show wasn’t much better. Now, I understand the constrains of the media and I admit the music was exactly what it needed to be, a mere background to the visual media that it was accompanying.
Could have I done a better job? Probably not. I wouldn’t find it possible not only to work under the constrains of a deadline in a medium where my work would be relegated to the background, but also under a musical supervisor whom I to whom I must acquiesce every demand to change my work. I have been there before and I know by now that I am too deeply protective of my work to know that I wouldn’t produce quality work under such constrains.
Having given up on this alternative form of entertainment I found myself going back to the question of what a truly musical experience that reflected the drama of A Song of Ice and Fire would be like. One where no deadlines applied, no external pressure; only the creation of a compelling body of work that reflected the narrative accomplishment of the books. The idea was fascinating and I would spend hours at the piano experimenting with ideas over and over again. It wasn’t too long before I realized that it such an enterprise would be a life-long commitment: with hundreds of characters, organizations, locations, and objects, all perfectly connected in a believable universe it was clear that to truly honor the books a minimum of preparation was going to be needed.
I decided that the same way a linguist might create a language for a fictional race, a musician might be able do the same. It was obvious since the beginning that there was not only the potential to do such a thing, but also a necessity if one expected to produce a body of work that lived up to the expectations. I started by asking questions about every single aspect of the peoples living in Westeros the same way an ethnomusicologist would in real life: ‘what instruments can they produce where they live and how would they be tuned?; ‘what textures would they be capable of given their instruments?; ‘what social function did music play in their lives?’; ‘what influences did they assimilate from other nearby cultures and how did these impact their music making?, and a hundred other questions necessary to build a realistic musical entity around these cultures.
Some years passed and I found myself enjoying the process and sharing it with my close friends. Many suggested to ‘do something with this’, but I kept refusing, for any attempt to share it with the wider public could only attract unwanted attention (aka copyright lawsuits). This is something I am very aware of to this day, and it causes quite a lot of concern knowing that any day a cease and desist letter could throw a wrench in the works. Posting a couple of pages and samples on a reddit thread was all I dared to do for a while but recently I came to the conclusion that sooner or later I needed to ‘do something with this’. This website is what I am doing with it. This is why there are no copyrighted images nor illustrations on this website. There is no advertising, no donation button. My lawyer (yes, I sought professional legal advice before making the website) tells me what my writing on the website falls into the category of transformative work, and that all the actual music I write and post here is entirely mine. To me that sounded good enough, so I decided to give it a go and commit to it: get a domain, a subscription, compile all my notes and start transcribing.
Delays even before starting
I happen to have two initial Rs in my name so I don’t know if it is coincidence or what but I can say I sympathize with George and blowing past deadlines. I made the decision to create the website late November 2019 with the intention to publish it “within two weeks”. Not even a week into it I decided to reschedule for New Years’ Day. I was doing well but as the deadline approach I saw the amount of work I needed to get ready for it double with every single task I completed. Working on the website every single hour I had available wasn’t enough and finding myself in 2020 I just decided to publish at any time so long it was before February… and it was then when I decided I didn’t want to have timed deadlines anymore: “I will launch the website when it is ready, and that’s my only real deadline”.
Current State and What to Expect
At the moment there are massive holes in the chapters that are available. There are entire sections missing either because I haven’t had time to finish them or even to start them. For example, there are sections like “Instruments” that can be super simple to write or incredibly difficult, as it requires a lot of time and energy to come up with an alternative version of an established instrument that is viable. In the next diary I am planning to talk about this specific topic of instrument construction more in depth and how I go about solving the problems that arise. The sections that are published aren’t in their final stage, though, as I will keep enhancing what I have already written when I have the time or necessity to do so. I will add a note to the welcome page with the most recent updates as they happen in time so it is easier to look for new material when visiting the site.
Some other holes in the pages are deliberate for many reasons. The difference in progress made between some pages is so large that I regrettably had to cut some sections of certain chapters lest the disparity is too obvious to become an issue. One such case is the Lhazareen chapter, that was simply the largest of all, and it just didn’t make sense to me to have it be so. Eventually, a few weeks before launching the website I made the decision to cut all the in depth parts of the Flute Language (close to one thousand words and with many, many examples of notation, and music) because it would just dwarf sections like the First Men and the Andals, which I think should have center stage for now. Once the rest of the chapters catch up in terms of breadth and depth I’ll put back the Flute Language section in the Lhazareen chapter. It has become one of my favorite parts of developing music for this universe so it will definitely back at some point, hopefully in a few months. This means that of course the sections that are published now at launch are not in their final stage as I will keep enhancing what I have already written when I have the time or necessity to do so. I will add a note to the welcome page with the most recent updates as they happen in time so it is easier to look for new material when visiting the site.
Like I said before this is a life-long project. It will take many years to complete, if I ever manage, for not only am I a slow writer, I also have a full-time job where sometimes I have to do a lot of extra hours and even when I don’t I get home exhausted. Some days I grind in front of the piano to get nowhere with an idea, while others everything seems to flow as if it was always meant to be that way. There isn’t a single day I don’t work on it, doesn’t matter how tired I might be, it’s always on my mind.